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Ranking the Rest of the Maui Invitational Field

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A look at who the Jayhawks will have to get through to take home the title.

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Southern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas will spend Thanksgiving week in Maui, where the scenery is about on par with Lawrence in November. The Jayhawks are looking to win their third Maui Invitational overall, and second in a row (remember when Wayne Selden went off against Vanderbilt in 2015?), in what will be KU’s seventh time in the tournament.

To do that, Kansas is going to have to get through a field of Michigan State, UCLA, BYU, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Dayton, and the scrappy home team Chaminade.

Since the season is still early, let’s break down the opponents, ranked best (factoring in rankings and early results) to worst. And since this was published before the new AP top 25 was released, all rankings (AP & KenPom) are as of Sunday.

TLDR: Be glad the Jayhawks aren’t in the Battle 4 Atlantis this year.

1. Michigan State (3-1)

AP Ranking: 3

KenPom Ranking: 1

Best Win: at Seton Hall

First-Round Opponent: Virginia Tech

Michigan State dropped the Champions Classic matchup to Kentucky and since then has gotten back to looking like the preseason favorite, while Kentucky heads in the other direction. The biggest issue for Sparty is injuries, as Josh Langford hasn’t played yet this season and Aaron Henry twisted his ankles against Seton Hall. Still, MSU is the only other ranked team and by far the toughest opponent Kansas would face. It would make for a hell of a championship game on Wednesday if both teams can advance. As you’ll see, MSU has the tougher road.

2. Virginia Tech (4-0)

AP Ranking: Receiving Votes (7)

KenPom Ranking: 41

Best Win: Clemson

First-Round Opponent: Michigan State

The Buzz Williams-less Hokies (now led by Mike Young, formerly of Wofford) are off to a solid start to the year. Though after winning the first game of the season against Clemson (currently 74th at KenPom), Virginia Tech hasn’t played a team better than 234nd in KenPom. So the numbers are a bit skewed. But still, Va Tech has had an efficient offense that is leading the country in the percentage of shots it takes from 3-point range, at 53.1%, while knocking down 42.2% of those chances. The fact that the Hokies play Michigan State first makes for by far the best first-round matchup.

3. Dayton (3-0)

AP Ranking: Receiving Votes (1)

KenPom Ranking: 52

Best Win: Nebraska Omaha

First-Round Opponent: Georgia

Dayton has yet to be challenged by a power 5 team, but the Flyers have proven they can score in their first three, averaging 89.6 ppg. Dayton has the third best effective field goal percentage at 62.7% and is leading the country in two-point field goal percentage at 72%. You’ll want to watch sophomore Obi Toppin, who is averaging nearly 24 ppg while hitting 28 of his 41 field goal attempts.

4. Georgia (4-0)

AP Ranking: N/A

KenPom Ranking: 61

Best Win: Georgia Tech

First-Round Opponent: Dayton

The reason to watch Georgia is highly touted freshman Anthony Edwards, who is averaging nearly 20 ppg to open his collegiate career. The Bulldogs don’t shoot it well from 3 (30.8%) but they are in the top 30 in steal percentage, while also not allowing steals on offense.

5. BYU (3-2)

AP Ranking: N/A

KenPom Ranking: 73

Best Win: at Houston

First-Round Opponent: UCLA

BYU has one of the best wins of any team in the field by winning at Houston. So I was considering the Cougars for the fourth spot. And then they dropped another game (in overtime, it should be noted) to a Boise State team outside the top 100 in KenPom. BYU is still dangerous and has proven it can hang with teams, but not having its best player in Yoeli Childs, who is suspended for nine games for receiving an impermissible benefit, really hurts the Cougars’ ceiling.

6. UCLA (4-1)

AP Ranking: N/A

KenPom Ranking: 104

Best Win: UC Santa Barbara

First-Round Opponent: BYU

Like BYU, UCLA is entering the tournament on a loss, falling by 10 to Hofstra at home. The Bruins haven’t played a team in the top 135 in KenPom yet and don’t do much exceptionally well except get to the free-throw line and grab offensive rebounds. Kansas has a decent draw going up against either UCLA or BYU in the second round after facing…

7. Chaminade (2-0)

AP Ranking: N/A

KenPom Ranking: N/A

Best Win: Alaska Anchorage

First-Round Opponent: Kansas

Chaminade comes into the tournament receiving votes in the NCAA D-II top 25. The Silverswords have won both matchups this season by a combined 55 points, but haven’t played since Nov. 10. Tyler Cartaino is the Silverswords’ best offensive player, scoring 20 and 21 points in Chaminade’s first two games. The challenge for the Swords? Height. Their tallest player is 6-8. Random Chaminade fact: redshirt junior guard Roman Young is from Wichita, Kansas.